Clearly it was to be Finnish night at the Scala this particular Monday, with Husky Rescue and Pepe Deluxe – who recorded together on the latter’s Spare Time Machine album of 2007, splitting the atom to take up the roles of support and main act respectively. The division of labour proved ideal for the overall musical experience, too, for the Husky Rescue torch songs complemented the much less restrained Deluxe material.
To begin with soft music played through the PA as chilled blue lighting saved us from darkness – until Marko Nyberg and his trio arrived, at which the shade of colour became a deep autumnal orange. Husky Rescue played themselves in to the ‘less is more’ camp, and indeed in their restraint ended up being surely one of the quietest bands to ever play the Scala. Pins could be heard dropping in their multitudes as the three vocalists whispered, coaxing barely audible but achingly poignant musical phrases from their instruments while they stood more or less stock still.
That was in the quieter music, mind, for there was an unexpected flip side of hidden power that took songs like the closing We Shall Burn Bright on to another level. At this point vocalist Johanna Kalen raised her arms as if blessing the crowd – and there was light, as the house lights danced through the smoke. It was a simple but remarkably powerful effect. Driving beats took Sound Of Love and to unexpected levels of energy, too, while the refrain of Beautiful My Monster proved difficult to shake off even after the evening’s main act.
Anyone familiar with this year’s new Pepe Deluxe album Queen of the Wave will have known to expect flamboyance and madcap psychedelia with their performance with the main act, and that is exactly what we got. There were video projections, depicting the epic underwater voyage, and the band performed the album pretty much from start to finish, showing commendable reluctance to bring in any of their earlier material.
The energy was immediate and free flowing, with vocalist Lumimarja Wilenius showing off an impressive range as well as a smile that lit up the Scala from front to back. This summed up the overall mood, with diehard fans losing control of their body movements early on up the front, and even those at the back wreathed in broad grins as the next funky riff or left of centre catchphrase made itself known.
In many ways this music would be more at home in the 1970s, with strong hints of funk, soul and even garage rock, but here it was updated in modern clothing with virtuosity and humour. The sample of the stalactite organ, famously used in Queen of the Wave, made for a joyous first encore, while the theremin was out in force for the thunderous closing track.
A Monday night of Scandinavian wonder, then – with homage to music past made to sound like the music of the future. It is to be hoped both bands – signed to Brighton’s Catskills label – return to the long player soon. In the case of Husky Rescue, that time is already long overdue, while Pepe have a multi-disc version of Queen Of The Wave just out. Judging by the crowd reaction, any newcomers at this gig will have it snapped up before long!